The Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific (JCAP) has a new network that aims to foster a more active and organized sharing of Ignatian Spirituality in Asia Pacific. The Ignatian Spirituality Network (ISN) formally came into being at its first official meeting held in Chiang Mai, Thailand in May.
The ISN core team comprising Coordinator Fr Tom Benz SJ, who is Superior of the Micronesia Community, and Fr Kim Young Hoon (Korea) and Fr L A Sardi (Indonesia), had gathered a smaller group of people working in Ignatian Spirituality in the various provinces and regions last year for a consultation to brainstorm possibilities for what could be done at the Jesuit Conference level. To begin initial discussions, the participants reported on what their province or region was already doing in the area of Ignatian Spirituality.
Fr Lester Maramara SJ, the delegate from Timor-Leste Region, recalls that many raw experiences, thoughts and opinions had been laid out and dissected but what saved the group from total confusion were the graced moments of quiet and prayer. “That was what I believe made the meeting of supposedly ‘spiritual’ persons quite different from the other meetings I attended,” he reflects. “We were trying our best to listen to the movement of the Spirit not only in our individual hearts, but more so in the heart of the group.”
Fr Benz’s subsequent report at the Major Superiors Assembly was well received and approval was given for the network to be formed with two goals: 1) to deepen the Ignatian character of all JCAP ministries; and 2) to explore ways to use the Spiritual Exercises as a tool for evangelisation in Asia Pacific. In addition, Korean Provincial Fr Chong Che-Chon agreed to be the network’s liaison with the other JCAP major superiors and the core team was expanded to include Fr Chris Gleeson (Australia) and Celina Lin (Singapore).
Learning from the experience of listening to the Spirit in common during the initial consultation in Yogyakarta, Indonesia, this year’s meeting held at the Seven Fountains Jesuit Spirituality Centre from May 10 to 14 had at its centre the unified gift of the Spirit, particularly that of spiritual conversation and the examen. The process of discernment included forming three working groups, coming together for a broader discussion and listening to the common movement of the Spirit as they entered into silence and spiritual conversation, the examen and finally evaluation. This time they were joined by Fr Chong and JCAP President Fr Tony Moreno.
The new network has already identified three priority initiatives: 1) to compose a spiritual profile of Jesuit ministries, akin to “What makes a Jesuit school Jesuit?” that can be used by apostolates of all types at all levels; 2) to create a template for apostolic planning and discernment (in the form of an “examen” on our “way of proceeding”) rooted in the Spiritual Exercises, recent General Congregations and the writings of recent Superiors General to be used at the provincial and secretariat levels; and 3) to sponsor theological study of the application of the Exercises in interreligious encounters, and to enhance the Ignatian resources available on the JCAP website.
Jesuit and lay representatives from a number of retreat and spirituality centres in JCAP were also invited to join the meeting not only to listen and be inspired by their labour of cooperation with the Spirit, but also to find points for collaboration and sharing of resources with each other and within JCAP.
“We were not only planning; we were discerning and discerning in common,” shared Fr Maramara. “We listened not only to the movement of the Spirit in our individual hearts; we, most of all, listened to the movement of the Spirit in the one heart of the group, asking where the Spirit was leading us as one.”
ISN has still to define its role as an agent of discernment and collaboration with other units in JCAP, but it is already moving on next steps. The members of the network have been asked to write to their major superiors about their experience and share what programmes they think would apply to their province or region and to the wider conference, and to share with their peers in ministry observations they believe will help their peers’ own network. They have also been asked to suggest topics for the Formation for Formators workshop, as well as think of how JCAP might respond to the expressed need for training and supervision of spiritual directors, especially in the younger regions.
“The major superiors have urged the ISN to collaborate on concrete projects that bring our Ignatian heritage into deeper dialogue with the rich cultures and contemporary needs of Asia Pacific,” said Fr Benz. “Our initial conversations have been stimulating, and we’re eager to see how the forthcoming universal apostolic preferences of the Society of Jesus might guide our future deliberations.”
There is much to accomplish but the members of the network are filled with zeal and excitement for this new endeavour that the Spirit of God, without doubt, has initiated.[This article was originally written and published by the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific and replicated here]